Dealing with Rejection


You have spent months, maybe years trying to get planning permission for that beautiful rear extension to your house, the one with the handsome folding doors that opens up the entire house to the garden. You dreamt of making perfect poached eggs in that sumptuous kitchen while you saw your children frolicking in the garden.  Then, one day you see the letter box on the door sticking its tongue out with a very official looking letter. The council’s emblem is on it, the champagne in the fridge can’t wait and is bubbling with excitement, threatening to pop and soak the cabbage. Rip rip…go on, says hubby .It is a pink coloured slip; in the blackest of bold letters it announces ‘REJECTION OF PLANS’ What? How can this happen? You have worked with the Architect for months and you suddenly think Piers Morgan is your architect, driving a Ferrari in Marbella with all the money you have given him. The champagne is flat darling ..calls out hubby from the kitchen. You hear swearing as some more plaster falls on his head.

You now have two options, load grandpa’s rifle with horse manure and hunt down the architect or simply sit down on your sofa, with a box of tissues and look at the letter carefully.

Extending and planning to refurbish your home can be a daunting process. It is a time consuming modus operandi of sorts, where you have to negotiate and come to a consensus with your partner using all kinds of techniques including, bribery, threats and bad cooking. But you would have also had to speak to your neighbour, the nice Mrs Jones, the one with the Rottweiler, hmm it’s amazing how dogs get to resemble their owners you thought when you went around and said you were gong to give her an award- a party wall award. And then after all that, this- the council thinks yours plans are loony.

A Planning rejection letter does not necessarily spell the death knell to your refurbishment project. According to the government, local councils should be determining 60% of all major planning applications within 13 weeks, 65% of minor applications within 8 weeks, and 80% of all other applications also within 8 weeks.
The funding councils receive are linked to improved planning performance. So it may be the case that your council’s planning department , inundated with planning applications and understaffed might have given a verdict ,without having the time needed to discuss a scheme.  So all is not lost; it is time to measure up when slapped with a rejection slip

But my architect said the turrets on the extension are fine.        

Call up your agent (if you used one) and ask if a negotiation process took place. Was the agent proactive? Was a pre-application consultation with a duty officer conducted? Did he or she establish a dialogue with your assigned planning officer? Did the agent keep you updated with the progress of the application? Busy architects, sometimes put in an application, turn on the kettle and completely forget about it. Although, they cannot guarantee a positive outcome, they can as part of their professional services, follow up the planning application and discuss an outcome.

Planning officers base their decisions on three aspects. The consultation process where Mrs Jones gets to say something about your extension, the rule of the book- the UDP (Unitary Development Plan) is the local authority’s planning bible. This, although to a large extent is standard in all counties, it can vary in policy matters. For example if you are trying to divide your house into two flats and if there is a shortage of housing in your borough , the UDP will support additional homes, provided they are sensitive to the surrounding and meet other requirements like parking. The hammer finally falls at the planning officer’s supervisor or line manager’s desk. Even if your planning officer would recommend to his superior to pass the scheme, the manager’s white powdered wig might start glowing, when he or she sees the scheme. He or she may pick up on things, other departments would have overlooked. The conservation officer says yes, the fire safety officers says nothing to worry, the highways authority are fine with the parking arrangements….but, hold your horses, the manager sees that standing from the nice terrace that your architect designed for you, you are going to be overlooking into your neighbour’s garden- the Rottweiler  is sunbathing again darling.

There is a fourth determinant that is wedged between these other aspects- one that is not technically part of the planning process.-Negotiation. A scheme that appears to contravene every rule in the UDP, annoy the entire street- an extension that is bound to have the neighbourhood dogs howling at it at night- still has a chance of being saved from the guillotine – only if your agent or architect armed  with required rule-book familiarity and professional experience would call the planning officer and justify the need for the dormer to be the size it is , because dear planning officer the internal head heights are currently for hobbits , and also if need be negotiate a size that would appease the planner and see the scheme through. Planning officers are only concerned with the outside appearance of the scheme; they don’t really care if it’s a Dali temple on the inside. But they are not such a bad lot and will listen and most important of all will be prepared to accept amendments, that is if the architect offers any- to hand you the all important planning permission and if they fall in love with your scheme, beware they may invite themselves to that family barbeque on the new decking.

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